Sunday, July 27, 2008


Anyone who runs, knows or should know, this puts an intense strain on your body. Your feet, legs, back and so on. Some injuries (as detailed here) are easier to get over than others. You should listen to your body and pay attention to what it tells you. The legs feed the wolf. So when your legs start to hurt, and really hurt listen. I have shin splints and thought I would outline what exactly shin splints are, how they feel and what you can do to heal them as quick as possible.

According to shin splints are defined as "Shin splints are characterized by a pain in the front and sides of the lower leg that develops or worsens during exercise. There may also be tenderness over the shin and edema (the accumulation of fluid) of the surrounding tissues. Shin splints are a common problem to runners."

What causes shin splints? There are several ways and reasons but given this is a runners blog I will keep this answer as runner oriented as I can. "Shin splints (an inflammation of tendons and muscles of the shin) is typically brought on by the impact forces of exercise.

The shinbone (or tibia) is covered by the periosteum, a band of soft tissue that has both nerve tissue and a blood supply. Just above the ankle and below the knee, tendons help attach muscles to the periosteum. When the shin is over-stressed, problems can develop in the periosteum, the tendons, the muscle, on the shinbone or in the four muscle compartments of the lower leg, which are covered with a wall of connective tissue (called the fascia). If recurrent, this latter condition is called chronic compartment syndrome.

Shin splints are a common, often seasonal injury that usually occurs when you start to run after a long layoff. They can also result from playing a sport (such as tennis) on a hard surface, changing your style of workout shoes, dramatically increasing workouts, or gaining a substantial amount of weight and then exercising.

Anterior shin splint is due to a muscle or tendon injury (that help to lift the front of the foot) and results in pain and tenderness on the front outside of the leg. Posterior pain (a soreness that radiates along the back and inner side of the lower leg or ankle) is typically caused by stressed muscles that help support and stabilize the arch of the foot."
What can you do to self medicate well at the first sign of pain in the shins, stop your activity. Trying to exercise through the soreness will only aggravate the condition and cause it to worsen.
Immediately massage the area with ice to reduce inflammation and irritation. The ice acts like a quick-acting, anti-inflammatory medication.

For pain relief and help to decrease the swelling, your physician may suggest taking ibuprofen, as directed.Do not apply heat to the area. Shin splints are an inflammatory condition, and heat will only irritate the area even more.

Healing time can be as little as two to three weeks (if you cut back on your exercise and begin aggressive self-help measures), but in some cases, recovery can take as long as 12 to 14 weeks before pain subsides.

So what can you do to prevent shin splints?
Replace or repair exercise shoes that are worn down to the heels. Switch to well-fitting shoes with plenty of impact-absorbing material in the forefoot and heel area. Remember that your running shoes may lose much of their shock absorbency after as few as 500 miles.
Warm up before running by first walking, then gradually increasing your speed to a jog.
When you raise your heart rate and lightly perspire, stop and stretch your calf muscles with a wall stretch. One way to stretch out tight calf muscles and Achilles tendons after warming up is to walk slowly on your heels for 100-200 yards.
Whenever you go for a run or walk, do it on dirt, grass, cinder or a rubberized track to minimize shin trauma.